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UAL Research Online

The Reeves Collection: An Investigation into Chinese Botanical Drawings, Their Identification and Conservation

Welby Bailey, Catherine Frances (2011) The Reeves Collection: An Investigation into Chinese Botanical Drawings, Their Identification and Conservation. PhD thesis, University of the Arts London.

Type of Research: Thesis
Creators: Welby Bailey, Catherine Frances

The Reeves Collection, held at the Royal Horticultural Society in London, comprises three large volumes, Chinese Drawings, and five small volumes of coloured Chinese botanical drawings entitled Chinese Drawings of Plants. They were sent back by John Reeves, an East India Company tea inspector based in nineteenth century Canton.

Virtually nothing was known about these pictures. Water damage and degradation exhibited by many watercolours in Chinese Drawings of Plants called for urgent research into their provenance, physical and aesthetic characteristics and into the materials used.

A multi-disciplinary approach was adopted. Biographical and topographical investigation uncovered the origins of these pictures while the inscriptions and historical research revealed their later history. An art historical approach was taken to describe the scientific and aesthetic aspects of the paintings. Materials were investigated using polarized light microscopy (PLM), Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and chemical tests. Possible causes of pigment loss and the degradative effects of copper greens were considered. Methods of reversing darkened lead white were investigated and a hitherto unreported Chinese method tested. Consolidants were compared by reference to published and unpublished material.

Fresh Reeves correspondence emerged during this research. It was discovered that many pictures were painted in Macao between 1817 and 1831 by four named Chinese painters. The identified papers, glues, sizes and pigments have been previously noted on Chinese works of art on Chinese and western papers, but with the addition of Prussian blue. New evidence for the Chinese manufacture of this colour is presented. A Chinese method of lead white reversal proved unsatisfactory. WS-EHEC and funori were identified as the most appropriate consolidants for future testing.

The wider implications of this research include new information about Reeves, the Chinese manufacture of Prussian blue and a possible reason for difficulties encountered in reversing darkened lead pigments on Chinese objects.

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Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > Camberwell College of Arts
Date: October 2011
Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2023 13:23
Last Modified: 14 Feb 2024 15:53
Item ID: 19712
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/19712

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